Joinign local chamber of commerce
I read a few posts that mentioned joinging the local COC to network and gain some new clients. Is there any advice on doing so, especialy the latter. Is it just about attending events nad meeting folks, or do they post projects that are looking for bidders. I know this a vague and a bit awkward, but any advice would be great.
Networking. Let people know you are out there and what you do. Find people that you can do business with as a customer of theirs. Practice your 30 second elevator speech.
Ok, so typically, do people need to join, or can they just show up at events?
Thanks, certainly sheds some light.
Go see the membership director. Usually they have some "open" events for non-members that you can go to once or twice. Every group is different. If it works at all for you, it is usually worth the small amount to join (usually a couple of hundred $$) for all the benefits. Be in their directory, get material in the "visitors center", get "featured" in their newsletter, link form their website, referrals when people call them, yada yada... It depends a bit on what your business is.
I believe you can show up "for free", one time, but don't expect that they are going to clear the floor, dim the lights, and let you hit them with a 20-minute powerpoint show about your business. That's reserved for paying members. If they let you introduce yourself, keep it really short, about 30 seconds or less, who you are and what you do, and maybe something tp personalize yourself or put yourself in context with the community. Something like "...and I've been a resident here for x years, and do (charity activity) while I've been building my video business. I'll be around afterwards if anybosy has questions or problems I could help with".
You can use the time before and after the formal meeting to mix and mingle, hand out biz cards, etc. I would be low-key about it, and wear a small name tag with your business name on it. Be sure to go around and meet and learn something about at least five people there. Try to make a comment about their business if you've patronized them, to show then you really have been there "I noticed you just re-did your parking lot last week, does that cut down on your customers when you have to do that?" "One of the things I like about your restaurant is you don't have TV's blaring all over the place, makes it a nice quiet getaway from the outside world". Anything to get them talking about themselves and what they do.
Ideally, You should ask more questions than the people that talk to you. It's very possible that some of the business owners will ask you some video or commercial-related questions just because you're standing there in front of them. They may be thinking casually about advertising and usually they don't know how to go about it, or have been bum-rushed by the local cable and radio ad salesmen. They might be looking for alternative views. They might fish to see what you say about the ads they are running now. (Do you know if they are advertising right now, and who's doing them?) Be very careful to be diplomatic about such conversations, it's always better to ask them additional pointed questions than to make judgements and pronouncements without all the background.
Resist the impulse to make the big sales pitch for yourself at that moment. Concentrate on building some identification and trust first. Offer free advice where you can and when it's asked for. Show you know your stuff, be a resource.
IMPORTANT: For God's sake don't quote prices or rates, besides poor etiquette it's the wrong place to do that without complete information, and you are guaranteed to have lowballed yourself or overpriced yourself to the guy. If pressed, explain how many variables there are to bidding a video job. People seem to understand the car or house metaphor: two cars, two houses, two prices - one is sky-high, the other is cheap. Both cars get you across town in about the same amount of time. Both homes keep the rain off your head. So, where are the differences and what are they worth? Explain that those details and features and extra performance are what you need to work out in a sit-down meeting before you can offer a figure. Explain that anybody that offers a cookie-cutter flat-rate solution in video is either naieve or a hustler.
Keep in mind some ideas for types of business-related projects. They might not all be just ideas for TV commercials. They might be training or marketing videos, documentation of, say, how a new building is constructed to exceed code, that might be used later as part of marketing to tenants.
Great post Mark! Thank you for your insight and experience.
Yes, very thurough and informative. Thank you Mark and Galt.
I'm really questioning whether or not the Chamber of Commerce membership is worth it... and I'm not sure that I'll renew next year. Membership isn't cheap. I belong to two of them, and go to meetings when I can, but they are lunchtime meetings and often I'm busy and can't go. In addition to the approx. $200 a year membership, they charge $22 per meeting as they provide a lunch buffet. The meetings give very little chance to network as people seem to be in a big hurry to get back to work. There's a bit of time before the meeting but people tend to clump together and talk and catch up with people they know rather than use the time for networking. The speakers/program are interesting but don't usually apply very directly to what I do. Part of the membership benefit is getting listed in their directory in print and online. In two years I've had one call, and I'm the only one listed in my category. They have started some separate networking sessions recently so I'm going to try that. It just seems like a lot of money & effort for very little return. There has to be a better way to spend $400 a year.
OK I'm going to be the spoiler here. I am willing to be the messenger everyone is going to want to kill -- but I will give you my pithy wisdom -- take it or leave it.
Joining the Chamber of Commerce is NOT worth it. I've been in business over 10 years -- and before that I spent 17 years in broadcasting -- knew every business owner in town, etc. --- I joined the Chamber -- went to their events -- mixed and mingled and handed out tons of business cards. The result? ZIP. Time wasted. Money out the door. Same story for many of my competitors. Who knows why? I used to wonder, but finally gave up and invested that Chamber dues money into a better yellow pages ad. THAT worked.
Flame me all you want -- but in my humble experience a good yellow page ad is MUCH more valuable than shaking hands at the chamber. Maybe it's because the REAL movers and shakers don't have TIME to mess around with the chamber?? Most of my biggest clients are not and will never be chamber members. They don't see the value in it either.
Those are my sour grapes. Fire away.
Like you, I have less enthusiasm for the Chamber of Commerce than many here. Oh, I have gotten the rare deal or two over the years but like you, I am not a member of our local Chamber and haven't been since the late 1980s.
I know some people that have done well within their local Chambers, and to them I wish them well but like you, I put my money elsewhere as most of the people I have met at Chamber functions are other people looking for opportunities -- read: looking to make not spend money.
Others mileage may vary but this has been my mileage record...
I certainly won't flame you. Nothing is 100 percent appllicable to every situation. I would like to qualify your example though... because I know many folks who are just as down on Yellow Pages ads.
My opinion is yellow pages ads are more for wedding/event guys, but not the most likely place a corporate person looks to get a video done.
OK I'll weigh in again --
It does, to some extent, depend on the community and the makeup of the chamber -- I'm sure of that. I suppose some chambers are freer of the politics that smother my local group. So -- yep -- I suppose a business owner should give it a look and see if there is any potential there.
RE: yellow page ads being for wedding and event guys. Well -- I do primarily government, corporate and broadcast stuff. No weddings or things of that nature. But what I have found is that MOST of my new clients find me through those big yellow page ads and I'll tell you why....
First, let me qualify this by stating that I live in a government town. A state capitol. When some department head in one of the govt. buildings decides to do some video, they generally tell somebody else to call around and find qualified vendors. There is a state-run online vendor system (website) that is supposed to be for the purpose of listing everyone qualified to offer services in any given field -- but the website is such a mess that whoever has to run the search just automatically turns to the phone book. I've heard this first-hand over and over. When they open the phone book -- boom -- there's my big ole ad. It explicitly states "government, corporate and broadcast". I get a call. I bid. Sometimes I get the job, sometimes I don't -- but I certainly stack the odds in my favor by being so visible.
There are a few cool things I have learned about being a long-time phone book advertiser. One is that if you buy a decent size ad and stick with it -- you will year by year be promoted to a progressively better spot on the page. Your wedding and event guys will come along and buy a huge ad -- within a couple of years they are out of business -- you are still there -- and you move up the food chain into spaces they previously held. Longevity really counts for a lot with the phone book people -- and they reward that with good placement. On the other hand, they will constantly try to upsell you -- and if your ad is clean and professional, you don't need to go to half-page or add color or whatever. Just stay the course and you'll be fine. I've actually seen my competitors go to two extremes -- buying a gigantic ad they have trouble paying for -- or reducing the size of their ad thinking that "everybody knows them". Both tactics usually fail in the long run. Get something like a quarter page black and white and stick with it.
Sorry -- got way off the beaten path there -- I could write a book about this stuff -- but it wouldn't be telling most Cow readers anything they don't already know.
My last word on this -- check out the Chamber -- if it doesn't feel good, plow your money into the yellow pages. Oh, and DON'T fall for their "internet yellow pages" scam -- that's a buncha crap. People still reach for the big thick book.
Well -- that's what works round here. But I do know that every town is different -- so keep an open mind and do what seems to produce the best results for ya. It might take a bit of expensive trial and error -- but it's worth the headache overall.
Your local Chamber is a great resource, IF IF IF you work the mixers, network and get on committees. If you are not prepared to do the above, save your money. Brochures alone are not going to feed the bull dog.
Ya know -- there IS another option -- at least in my town. In addition to the Chamber, we have a number of business associations. I am a member of the Northeast Business Assoc. because that's the side of town where I'm located. This Association is totally made up of business owners and I am "one of them". So whenever I go to a meeting I'm not viewed as being there just to network and scrounge for work. I HAVE had some success getting new clients from this group -- much more so than from the Chamber of Commerce.